An interview with... Courtney Barnett

On the release of her new album "Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit", Courtney Barnett is playing her biggest headline shows to date and is gaining more and more support across the UK, Europe, America and her home country Australia. Tonight Barnett is playing Cambridge, a city she played less than a year ago, however tonight's show is sold out and in a venue more than three times the size of the previous venue. We met up with Barnett in her dressing room backstage to have a chat.

Touring outside of Australia is something that's fairly new to you. How have you coped adapting to the rapid amount of support you've been getting in the UK and US and other places?

It's been cool. I guess we've never really toured outside of Australia since last year so it's just kinda been crazy. New things, new places and new times.

You've played Cambridge before. Now you're in this venue that's much bigger. 

Yeah, it's a lot bigger! [Laughs]. It's pretty nice to come across the world and play bigger rooms. It's positive.

You played an album release show in London recently and as part of that show you had your own art on the walls. Do you find at times that your music can influence your art or your art influences your music?

Yeah, I think they both run into each other a little bit. I probably draw as much as I write when I'm just fucking around in my books and stuff, so it's just a different way to get ideas across.

When do you find you do most of your writing?

Urm... I don't really know, it always changes. Sometimes I don't write for a week and then sometimes I go crazy with it. But it's kinda wherever I get ideas.

Before coming to the UK you were out in America and you did SXSW. When you're travelling for a long period of time is there anything back home that you really miss?

Just general friends and family. My cat. Though I get videos of my cat [laughs]. I guess just other little bits you kinda miss without really noticing like your local things. You know, your local cafe or bar or whatever, but it's not really a big deal.

You're supported tonight by Fraser A. Gorman who is on your label Milk! Records. I noticed you're in some of his videos and he's in the background of some of yours.

Yeah. Actually we kind of fucked it up recently. We both have done more videos now and we've broken the tradition but we were trying to get a video for video cameo... But yeah, we're just friends from back home [Melbourne, Australia]. He's on my label back home and now he's also joined the same UK label.

So is it nice to come out on tour with a friend?

It's fucking awesome. Yeah, just makes it... I don't know. Spring King are really cool as well, but it's just nice having an extra face you know in a far away place.

So your album title "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit" was taken from a poster in your grandmother's house. Do you find that the places you're in influences your music more? So if you're in the UK do you find that influences you differently than writing back home?

I think a little bit, but most of the time a lot of memories are associated with places. I guess I have been writing quite a bit whilst I've been travelling but most of the time it links back to other places. But yeah, the place totally directs where the stories are going.

Your new album explores some different genres. For example, in "Pedestrian at Best' the chorus is pretty up-beat and rock but then in other songs like "Depreston" it's a bit slower. Do you find that one style of music speaks to you more than other styles or is it more just what fits with the song?

I think that with every story there is different emotion and different emotions bring different energies. I just think it kind of makes itself obvious, there's no certain genre I try to stick by or mould all the songs around and then when we play everything as a band the emotion narrated the energy and it just becomes apparent as to what it's going to sound like.

Do you find that a crowd influences your performance a lot?

Yeah definitely. I think it bounces off each other. Their energy bounces off us and we bounce off them, it always works in different ways so I guess that's the cool thing about performing, there's no formula, you never know what it's gonna be. You could be in the greatest mood and play the shittest show or vice versa.

Lots of bands from the USA say that touring in the UK is a lot different because you can be in your next city within a few hours, where as in the US it can take up to ten hours to get to your next city. What's the difference in Australia?

Oh compared to Australia it's nothing. It takes a whole day to get anywhere in Australia so the US and UK is just like "wow! we're in a new place in a couple of hours!" It's amazing! [Laughs].

So if you were to do karaoke, what song would you do? 

[Laughs] Well probably... either "Stop Right Now" by the Spice Girls or... Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart"... or Tom Jones "Burning Down The House"... I could keep going... [Laughs].

But the thing is, if you were singing the Spice Girls you would have to do a dance too. Do you reckon you could do that?

I mean... it would really depend what mood I was in!

Depends how well the show goes! What do you reckon the best piece of advice you've ever received is?

I don't know... I don't think that people have ever really given me advice... [Laughs]. Or you know, not like, really good one liners. My uncle was a financial guy... a financial planner and he used to say "if you look after the dollars..." no, wait, "if you look after the cents, the dollars will take care of themselves" or something like that! [Laughs].

Yeah my gran has said that one!

[Laughs] Yeah! And I was like... "whatever". I always threw my cents away.

And finally, can you draw yourself in 30 seconds for us?

Yeah, I will do is with my eyes closed.

Thanks for talking to us Courtney!

Words by Nathan McLaren-Stewart